On the second night of our stay at Beijing no 27 school, hosting students, our students and staff, family members and several staff from no 27 were treated to a school evening reception. A number of welcome speeches were made.
The evening was hosted by the Secretary and chaired by Eric, a Mongolian student who also acted as interpreter for us all.
A selection of traditional Chinese musical instruments were demonstrated by skilled Chinese students.
Australian students were able to attempt playing the instruments. An evening banquet meal was enjoyed by us all.
Every second year our school organises a trip to China, as mandarin Chinese is taught as our second language. Part of this trip involves a four or five day visit to our sister school at no 27 Beijing. It is offered to students in years 9 and above.
I am fortunate to be one of the supervising teachers in attendance. There are 11 students, 2 staff and four adults who are related to the students. On arrival at the airport, we were met by Mr Wan who picked us up and took us by bus to no 27 school where we were greeted to our official welcome, early lunch and then attended classes. We were given a home room where most of the classes took place.
On that first day, our classes included:
Students were then greeted by their host familes who came to the school to pick them up and take them to their homes for four nights. This really pushes students outside their comfort zones as English may not be spoken by the parents or may be very limited. Their homes are tiny compared to our large Australian homes and most Chinese students slept on a couch so that our students could have a bed. The girls especially showed some nervousness about this. All but two families had one child.
The school then treated our staff and adults to a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant where we enjoyed amongst other amazing dishes – the famous Peking or Beijing Duck. The duck was carved in front of us by the chef!
When classes from two different countries and cultures connect or collaborate for the first time, it can be very difficult to determine the names and gender of the students involved.
My school had a Chinese language assistant teacher from Shanghai for 12 months several years ago. She introduced herself as Wang Yi,so we called her Wang but after she had left we realised her first name was actually Yi!!! We had been calling her by her last name.
There will be differences in the order of names. In Australia we state our first names followed by our surnames (or last names). In China, students’ last names (or family names) come first then their first name. Some Indian citizens do not have even have a last name just their first name or name of their father which is carried down through generations.
When classes do connect and collaborate for the first time, it is essential for success that teachers share student details with clear headings for first and last (family) name. Pronunciation of the name using a audio would be useful. Gender should also be shared, as foreign names may not convey whether they are a boy or a girl.
If using webconferencing software such as skype, polycom videoconferencing, ghangouts, zoom etc, signs or printouts showing the name of the student (and pronunciation if possible) could be used as the student comes up to the camera.
What tips and hints do you have? How else do names differ around the world?
School families have been asked to host visiting Chinese students from our sister school in Beijing. Many are reluctant and all are rather nervous. Our community is geographically and culturally isolated so people from different languages and cultures are rare.
Parents are concerned about the following:-
- What to feed their visitors? What will they eat and what should they cook?
- How will they communicate effectively?
- Will the students be bored?
- Where should they take the students?
- If they go to their room early, are they upset?
- How should they fill in the time after school and on the weekend?
- Most can only take a single student as they would not be able to transport them in their family car.
- Will they mind sharing a bedroom?
This certainly pushes many of us outside our comfort zone? How did it all turn out? Following are some comments from parents on our school Facebook page:
We experienced an amazing week both Max and Chen taught us so much we now have a greater understanding of their culture and country.
We had such a fantastic experience with Jing Jing staying with us. She is looking forward to seeing Chelsea again next month!
Hawkesdale p12 College welcomes a visit from our sister school, no 27 Beijing, every second year. Students are placed with host families for 7 nights during their visit to Hawkesdale. They attend school for 5 days of their visit and a special timetable is prepared for them. The aim of their visit is to be exposed to the Australian culture and to be immersed in the English language. Many of the host families live on farms and some live in towns of 150 people or less.
It is not until we host international students that we realise how different we are and how much we take for granted of where we live and learn. Following are some of what we have learnt.
- Some of the Chinese students have never seen stars
- A blue sky is a rarity in Beijing and they love our blue skies.
- Some students have never been exposed to the dark (the lights are always on in Beijing)
- Many have not eaten with a knife and fork
- Many have not seen a rainbow
- Our families are large – most have 3 or 4 children.
- Our homes are huge cf their small apartments
- Houses tend to be one storey here – multi-storey there.
- The countryside and space that we have between houses and farms is the complete opposite
- There is little traffic ie cars on our country roads but it includes milk tankers, stock trucks and the occasional tractor on the road.
- Freedom in internet access.
- Students will be able to ride a horse (which they have only seen in picture books or in a zoo)
- Many are afraid of dogs and most country families have dogs in Australia.
Australia is a wonderful country to live in and the country areas are great! We were proud to share our country and homes with the students and staff.
As our school teaches mandarin Chinese, any connection with a school in China is of special interest. The assistant principal of an Bozhouu International School in China found me on the Skype in the Classroom website.
As we had already completed a mystery skype connection, Richard suggested that we do a mystery animal game this time, using skype as the videoconferencing tool. He had prepared a wonderful sheet to share with the students bearing images of African animals complete with the names in both English and Chinese.
Following is how it looked:-
- Each class had previously chosen an animal from the sheet.
- My students had printed off their names on an A4 sheet for clearer understanding.
- Boxhou rang us on skype. There were technical difficulties on their end but all was resolved within 10 mins.
- Students played paper rock scissors over the camera to see who was to start first. Hawkesdale, Australia won.
- Students had to ask questions only with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. eg Is your animal grey? Is your animal a carnivore?, does it have a long nose or trunk? etc.
- They took it in turns to ask questions and each student would introduce themselves one at a time.
There was much laughter in the classroom on both sides as we tried to understand each other’s accents, names etc. It took approximately 20 mins for each side to actually determine the other’s animals. All the Chinese students stayed in over their recess period to complete the a second mystery animal.
Student reflections on their individual blogs:-